I have learned, through the years, the benefits of preventative choices (another story for another time). Here are some quick ways to prevent health problems or make quick changes for improvement.
Brush and floss. I hope you do this already, but if you don’t, it would be good to start. There’s ample evidence that the germs and bacteria in your mouth can do damage to your heart. The technical term here is ‘subclinical atherosclerosis’ and what it means is ‘evidence of early heart disease’. The bacteria causing these problems have no problem moving from your mouth to your bloodstream to your heart. They then help create conditions that are more inviting for plaque to grow in your arteries. Keep them at bay with a little attention to your teeth. For the full deal, read here.
Take a multi-vitamin. There is a growing body of evidence that our food is not as nutrition-filled as it used to be. We’re missing minerals and micro-nutrients that have been leached out of the dirt most food is grown in. These important little guys do things like build cells and proteins, reduce free radicals, and help balance hormones. (The film King Corn and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma provide a lot of insight if you’re interested.) Taking a multi-vitamin will add these things back into your diet. [Side Note: especially for women, I recommend a prenatal multi-vitamin, even if you’re not prenatal. Some vites have more of these micro-nutrients than needed; prenatal vites are not allowed to go over recommended amounts.]
Wiggle when you wake up. Wiggling has little-known health properties: it improves your flexibility by getting the fluid between your joints (called ‘synovial fluid’) to adequately lubricate in and around the bones of the joint (fingers, wrists, shoulder, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, etc.). It also makes you smile. You’ll know you’re wiggling when you move like you’re being tickled. If wiggling upon wake up is too much, try wiggling in bed.
Say hello to yourself. How often do you look in the mirror and start to criticize: “jeeze, I need my roots done!” or “ugh”? Often I look in the mirror and don’t even notice myself- it’s just a face in the mirror doing the same thing it always does in the mirror- putting on make up and doing hair. Imagine greeting yourself kindly, instead. “Oh! Hi, Joanna!” -with a little smile, maybe. Elizabeth Gilbert, in Eat, Pray, Love wrote about passing by a mirrored window, catching a quick, sidelong glance at herself and happily thinking “Oh, I know her!” The revelation that she saw herself as a friend was simple and profound. I can’t give you scientific evidence that this does something for your body or mind; spiritually, it’s good medicine, for sure.
Pay attention to your food. This is not about knowing exactly where your food comes from, or how much of it you are eating. This is about experiencing your food fully- not inhaling it. Take 22 seconds and notice the color, texture, and arrangement of the food. See if you can find one really pleasing thing about your meal. Feeling full comes from the experience of satiation (say-shee-ay-shun)- feeling satisfied. Using more of your senses to enjoy your food will help increase your satisfaction- on many levels.
Reach for the sky. Dutch researchers at Radboud University completed a study where participants who moved marbles upward recounted more positive experiences; when moving the marbles downward, the memories became more negative. Motor actions and emotional experiences are linked. Give yourself a lift and stretch your arms up over your head. For a brief on the research, check here.
Stretch before bed. After being crunched up in a cube all day, and then hunched over a dinner table (or sunk into a couch), your muscles need a little relaxation and release. Stretching before bed will help release physical and emotional tension. Go for easy stretches- think junior high gym class- shoulder and neck rolls, quad stretches (the front muscle of your thigh), sitting and reaching for your toes. Try to stretch each muscle group for 30 seconds; if it pulls or hurts, stop. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a link to the Mayo Clinics slideshow (with descriptions) on stretching your major muscle groups. Bonus points: let go of the difficulties of the day mentally as you stretch. Super bonus points: think of something happy when you’re done and let the feeling spread all over your body (try smiling with your toes!).
Let me know if you use any of these and how it goes!